music video, videotaped performance of a recorded popular song, usually accompanied by dance or a fragmentary story and sometimes employing concert footage. Typically three to five minutes long, music videos frequently include quick cuts, stylizations, fanciful and often erotic imagery, and computer graphics. Originally vehicles for promoting singles, most music videos are in the rock idiom. Although many examples of the genre feature the macho rock stars and scantily clad dancers that have become cultural clichés, certain music videos are notable for their cutting-edge techniques and artistic innovations, and some of their directors have achieved auteur status.
The music video form was popularized by the MTV cable network (est. 1981) and began to have wide popularity and influence in the early 1980s. By the 1990s many hundreds of videos, representing a cross-section of musical forms—from traditional to experimental rock, heavy metal to hip hop—were being produced yearly. Although music videos have usually been aimed at a teenage audience, many videos of ballads or "soft rock" songs are now directed at an older group of viewers. Since shortly after their inception, the style and content of music videos have strongly influenced advertising, television, film, and popular culture as a whole.